After a long and tumultuous 2012 season, the Boston Red Sox bounced back in style, clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2009 in a 6-3 victory over Toronto this past Friday. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they cruised to the American League East title with rather ease in the latter portion of the season, picking up their first division title since 2009. The Sox feature an offense ranking first in the majors in runs scored and slugging percentage and second in batting average and on-base percentage. Couple that with a pitching staff that turned in 94 quality starts (third best in baseball), and you have a team that is poised and ready for the postseason.
The Yankees made Sunday an afternoon to remember when they honored future Hall of Famer and current closer Mariano Rivera. After introducing some of Rivera's teammates with whom he played during his 19-year career, including Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, the team honored him with a ceremony to retire his No. 42. The fans at Yankee Stadium were also treated to a visit from heavy-metal band Metallica, who performed Rivera's entrance song, "Enter Sandman." The Yankees also added his bronze plaque to Monument Park, making him the first active player to receive the honor. With six games to go in the season and only three of them at home, Sunday could have been the final home game in which he pitched.
Before Sunday, only two players in major-league history had two walkoff grand slams in their career: Alex Rodriguez (he actually has three) and Ryan Zimmerman. Kansas City outfielder Justin Maxwell added his name to the list with a tenth-inning grand slam, giving the Royals a 4-0 victory over Texas. Maxwell's first game-winning grand slam occurred in 2009 when he was a member of the Nationals. While he is surely happy about his hit, Maxwell is probably more ecstatic that his Royals are on a six-game winning streak and have won 16 of their last 20. They are white hot and only three and a half games out of a Wild Card spot with a week to go in the season.
Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was named the American League Player of the Week for the period ending on September 15th. Iannetta went 9-of-21 during the week (.429) with three home runs and five RBI. He also scored seven runs. Iannetta has been part of a catching platoon in Los Angeles with Hank Conger. Conger has been a much better option at the plate, but Iannetta remains a premiere defensive catcher. Even though Conger seems to be their long-term option, it was a nice sign for the Angels to see the eight-year veteran get some recognition for his hitting.
It is really hard to find anything good about the Houston Astros this season. Besides having the fewest wins in baseball and owning the new American League record for strikeouts at the plate, they hit perhaps the lowest part of their season during the week when the Nielsen ratings were released. According to the ratings, Houston's game against the Angels last Saturday evening pulled in a 0.04 rating. If that number seems low, it is... in fact, it's shockingly low. Essentially, the game had an average audience of about 915 households or about 1,000 viewers. Houston owns the seventh-largest television contract in baseball and yet in a city of nearly two million people, they mustered just 1,000 viewers? It is hard to put into words just how incredible that really is.
Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez hit his 29th home run of the season on Saturday night, tying the major-league record for home runs in a season by a player age 40 or older. Ibanez, who turned 41 back in June, matched the mark originally set by Ted Williams. Williams hit 29 homers in 1960, the last season of his major-league career, at age 42.
Ryan Zimmerman hit his 26th home run of the season in the Nationals' loss to the Marlins in the first of two games at Washington on Sunday. Zimmerman leads the majors with 11 home runs since September 1st, which is the highest by a Nationals player in any calendar month since Alfonso Soriano hit 11 homers for Washington in August of 2006.
Mets infielder Wilfredo Tovar went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base in his major-league debut to help the Mets finish off a three-game sweep in Philadelphia. Lenny Dykstra is the only other player in Mets history to debut in the majors with a multiple-hit game that included an extra-base hit, an RBI and a stolen base when he did so in 1985. Dykstra's extra-base hit in his debut was a two-run homer in a 9-4 Mets win over Cincinnati.
St. Louis is one of baseball's storied franchises and this season marks another notch on their belt. The Cardinals beat the Brewers for their 90th win of the season on Friday night, marking the 30th season that the Cardinals have won at least 90 games. Only two National League teams have done that as many times as St. Louis: the Giants (42 seasons) and Dodgers (34 seasons). The Cards joined the Braves in clinching a playoff berth on Sunday when the Nationals lost.
Joey Votto prefers to play his baseball within a span of nine innings and his numbers show it. But they also show that he hates to play extra innings. The Reds first baseman hit a tie-breaking home run in the top of the 10th inning to lead Cincinnati to a 6-5 comeback victory over the Pirates on Friday. Votto entered the game hitting .056 (1-for-18) in extra innings this season. That is the lowest batting average for any major-league player with at least 15 at bats in extra innings.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence was named National League Player of the Week for the period ending on September 15th. Pence was not just good. He was ridiculous. He went 13-for-29 (.448), hitting six home runs and 19 RBI. He scored eight runs as well. His OPS of 1.572 during the week was just absurd. Every pitch seemed like a beach ball to him. It's a shame San Francisco is not making the playoffs, because timely hitting at this point in the season means everything.
Clayton Kershaw tossed seven innings and struck out 10 batters in the Dodgers' 4-0 win over the Padres on Friday. It was the Los Angeles starter's 10th career game with at least 10 strikeouts and no runs allowed. The only other active pitchers with at least 10 games of that kind are Jake Peavy (12) and Johan Santana (11). Even without this factoid, Kershaw seems well on his way his second Cy Young Award come season's end.
John Lopiano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.
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